Graham Ansell

Graham Ansell was a husband and father of three from Horsham, West Sussex, when he died in 2007 aged just 48 from mesothelioma.

Graham became an apprentice carpenter when he was 16 years old and some of his work involved cutting up the asbestos-containing asbestolux boards and working in roofs where chimneys were sometimes demolished. Following this he joined another company and was involved with the major refurbishment of a large bank in London. There, Graham had to drill into ceilings and cut and install fireproof doors. It is believed that during these years Graham was exposed to asbestos.

At the time of his apprenticeship, Graham was never told of the risks of asbestos. He never wore protective clothing or took safety precautions because he was not aware of the risks.

Mandy Ansell, Graham's wife, said the whole family were devastated when they heard the news of Graham's illness. In April 2006 Graham went to the doctor with symptoms of a mild cough and breathlessness so it came as a massive shock in July when he was diagnosed with mesothelioma.

He was told he only had 10 per cent use of the affected lung and had several litres of fluid drained before starting a course of chemotherapy. After an operation in December 2006 to try and remove the affected lung, it was discovered that the cancer had spread to the chest wall so the surgery could not be completed. Although he recovered from the surgery it was too late as the disease had already taken hold and he was never well enough for further chemotherapy.

Graham died in April 2007, a few days before his 49th birthday and just weeks before his and Mandy's 26th Wedding Anniversary.

Mandy and her family are heart-broken by the loss of Graham. She said: "We were enjoying life together. The children had gone to university and we were a couple again, just the two of us. I feel I have been robbed of my future, I haven't got a life any more; he was my life.

"He missed the graduations of both our daughters and our son's success as a musician and we all miss him terribly. We received compensation but nothing can replace the gap left in our lives. He was so young. We had been planning our joint 50th birthday celebrations for the following year but he didn't survive that long.

"I would urge employers to ensure they work within the safety guidelines and I would strongly advise employees to stop work and draw attention to any situation where they feel they are at risk. It is perhaps too late for one generation, but we need to think of the next. I hope other families don't have to go through what we've been through."

Every year there are still over 4,000 deaths from asbestos related diseases. Tradesmen doing similar jobs to Graham could be working where asbestos is present right now - any building built or refurbished before the year 2000 could contain the deadly substance.

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Updated 2023-05-16